2014 NFL Draft Spotlight: St. Louis Rams

2013 Finish: 7-9, 4th
place, NFC West

Draft position: 2nd
overall, 13th overall

Team offensive rankings: 30th
overall, 19th rush, 27th pass

Team defensive rankings: 15th
overall, 9th rush, 19th pass

Last year’s top pick: Tavon Austin,
WR, West Virginia (8th)

Areas of need: WR, OL, OLB

Possible targets: Sammy Watkins,
WR, Clemson; Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M; Jadeveon Clowney,
DE, South Carolina

Rams are in somewhat of a precarious position. Thanks to their deal
that allowed the Redskins to move up to draft Robert Griffin III,
they now own the No. 2 overall pick in the draft after Washington’s
sorry 3-13 season, not to mention the No. 13 pick. Should they decide to keep the No. 2 pick rather than
trade down, there will be a bevy of skill-position players to choose
from. The Rams appear committed to quarterback Sam Bradford for at
least one more go-round, but Bradford will be returning from an ACL
tear, so counting on his success is dicey. Before he went down in
Week 7 this season, he showed signs of continued progress, throwing
14 touchdown passes to just four interceptions.

the Rams go the route of arming Bradford with more weapons, they
could drop back several slots to stockpile picks and still end up
with Clemson’s Sammy Watkins to complement last year’s top pick,
Tavon Austin. After a slow start to the season, Austin showed flashes
of brilliance down the stretch even with backup Kellen Clemens
manning the ship, but his final numbers remained unimpressive: 40
receptions, 418 yards, 4 TD, 1 punt return TD. Tight end Jared Cook
was the team’s leading receiver (51-671, 5 TD) in his first season
with the club after signing as a free agent from Tennessee.

it isn’t fair to completely douse the offensive line, which has
dogged St. Louis since its heyday – they actually were eighth in
fewest sacks allowed with 36 – an upgrade is needed. Jake Long is
under contract for the next three seasons, but Matthews, who is
considered the top tackle in the draft, could give the Rams bookend
tackles to build a solid foundation for the future.

then there is the outside-the-box-but-scary-if-it-happens possibility
that the Rams could keep the number two pick and take Jadeveon
Clowney to add to their deep core along the defensive line, but that
seems to be a stretch. Robert Quinn and Chris Long spearheaded a
front four that helped the Rams finish third in the league in sacks
with 53 a year after tying for the league lead with 52.

Rams have a number of unheralded young players on defense, which
leads me to believe they will go offense in the 2014 draft. Jeff
Fisher may be a defensive guy at heart, but the front four is in
great shape and there are a number of other key pieces to the puzzle
already in place. Alec Ogletree seemingly came from nowhere to lead
the team in tackles (117) at outside linebacker, edging middle
‘backer James Laurinaitis (116).

the secondary, the Rams appear to be in good shape with several
sophomores turning in stellar seasons. Cornerback Trumaine Johnson
led the team with three interceptions, while free safety Rodney
McLeod started all 16 games and registered two interceptions and two
fumble recoveries. Corner Janoris Jenkins had just one pick but broke
up 14 passes while starting all 16 games and is considered one of the
top young corners in the NFL.

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